Thimphu, Bhutan

Thimphu, Bhutan

From the Archives: Bhutan, 2013

The Jungshi Handmade Paper Factory sits on a hill overlooking the mountainous terrain of Thimphu, Bhutan. The paper factory illustrates the government’s resolve to support the local economy by preserving the country’s traditional arts, including paper making.

Jungshi Handmade Paper Factory, Bhutan

Jungshi Handmade Paper Factory, Bhutan

Jungshi means “natural” and the entire paper making operation is true to that name. Bark from several species of Daphne and Edgeworthia shrubs goes through a process of transformation from bark to pulp to paper, known as deh-sho. Bhutan’s Forestry Department uses sustainable practices to farm the shrubs and supply the bark to several paper making operations around the country, including Jungshi. Jungshi produces about 1,500 sheets of paper per day.

Bark from the shrubs is soaked in water to break down its structure, then strained from the liquid and brought inside the factory. The stringy mass is fed into a grinder which spits out the pulp into a big vat, like a giant bowl of oatmeal.

Fiber to Pulp :: Bhutan

Fiber to Pulp :: Bhutan

The next step is where the magic happens. I was at the factory in the late afternoon when golden light was pouring in the windows as this woman worked with the paper screen. Watery pulp is spread evenly across the screen, then the screen is lifted out, aligned with the growing stack of wet paper, released on top of it and peeled off from the opposite edge, leaving behind the new sheet of paper.

Preparing pulp on the screen

Preparing pulp on the screen

Lifting the screen to the stack of paper

Lifting the screen to the stack of paper

Aligning the screen with the stack

Aligning the screen with the stack

Releasing the screen on top of the stack

Releasing the screen on top of the stack

Peeling the screen away from the opposite edge

Peeling the screen away from the opposite edge

Revealing the new sheet of paper

Revealing the new sheet of paper

Stacks of paper sit throughout the factory — some of them wet, some of them dry, some of them sandwiched and pressed for flatness.

Sheet by sheet, dry paper is hung from an easel where it’s brushed off and inspected for quality.

The finished paper is stamped with the Jungshi logo, then either shipped out from the factory or placed in the paper shop at the site. According to the U.N., demand for handmade paper from Bhutan comes mainly from Sweden and the U.K. Paper is used for greeting cards, gift wrap, stationery, books and certificates.

The Jungshi paper shop offers a nice collection of sheets and paper products, some of which contain additional leaves and flowers that grow wild around the landscape of Bhutan. Perhaps you recognize what’s been added here?

35 comments

    1. Hey! Thank you! Great to hear from you. Actually, this post is from my trip in 2013. I should probably add that at the beginning. I never shared the whole story about my visit to the paper factory and the “Transformation” photo challenge seemed like a perfect opportunity. In any case, I found Bhutan magical!! Peaceful and pure in a world that is the often the opposite. Hope you’re enjoying the weekend somewhere fun — or in a nice first class suite over the ocean! πŸ™‚

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    1. Hey! SO great to hear from you! Hope you both are doing well. I was just commenting to Harinda Bama that he needs to stay in touch with you about going to Bhutan. He’s a great blogger, super smart and interested in history of all kinds. Thanks for the holiday wishes! It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas here in Vancouver. I’m headed to Colorado to see my family at the end of the month. Happy holidays to you, too and best wishes for the New Year! πŸ™‚ ~Kelly

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  1. It must have been really fascinating to watch the process of making handmade paper in Bhutan! With demands coming from places halfway across the globe I really hope this tradition will survive the test of time. By the way, speaking of Bhutan, last month I actually was planning to go there sometime next year. So I contacted the people at Bridge to Bhutan and mentioned your name. Apparently they still remember you! However, the plan didn’t work out well and I had to postpone the trip. It remains near the top of my wishlist though.

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    1. That’s so great, Bama! I hope you connect with Bridge to Bhutan someday. They are such cool brothers, doing such a wonderful job introducing people to their country. You would really get on well with them. I hope you go!!! πŸ™‚

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  2. Very cool process. I must say I can’t quite figure out how the piles of wet sheets don’t all get stuck together, but they’ve obviously worked that out! πŸ™‚ I used to buy paper like this, but I haven’t for a while. Nice reminder!

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  3. Love this post. I really love seeing factories where they still do things in the traditional way. We went to a rice noodle factory in Vietnam – it was quite amazing. Thanks for this glimpse inside the paper making factory. Gorgeous photos!
    Alison

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    1. Thanks, Alison! I’m going to try to do more of these kinds of posts. Traditional arts are so culturally important and fun to photograph, too! Maiwa has been really inspiring to me, as you know from the Ajrakh printing event we all attended. Thanks for your thoughts! πŸ™‚

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  4. Fascinating account and beautiful photos. Bookmarking for a future visit. Bhutan and Sikkim are both on our radar. But I think I should get myself to Sri Lanka first πŸ™‚ Merry Christmas Kelly!

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